District Five names 2024-2025 finalists for Support Employee of the Year

Lexington-Richland School District Five has named finalists for its 2024-2025 Support Employee of the Year award. The finalists are: Holley Barfield, a receptionist and leave clerk at Chapin High School; Cissy Graham, a computer lab assistant at Dutch Fork Elementary School; and Heather Woods, a special education assistant at Piney Woods Elementary.

Barfield joined School District Five 16 years ago. Prior to joining the district, she worked at the South Carolina Department of Corrections for 13 years.

“After 16 years in School District Five and working in six schools across three clusters and in six positions from Cafeteria Monitor to Leave Clerk, I have had the pleasure of being exposed to the various environments, wide-ranging experiences, and incredible faculty that School District Five has to offer,” Barfield said. “With this diverse background, I have built connections across the district that have helped me to relate to staff and faculty and understand the different backgrounds that students come from. In addition to the experiences I have gained from working across various schools, I have thoroughly enjoyed watching some of my students from Chapin Intermediate grow and mature to succeed at the high school level. I love seeing the joy on their faces
when they realize I work at their new school. Being a familiar face for these students is incredibly rewarding and I adore seeing how they have changed from when I worked with them directly.”

Graham has been at Dutch Fork Elementary School since 2019. She also runs the school’s afterschool program and is a very active member of the school’s PTO.

“I feel that the most important part of my job is building strong relationships with students and their families, Graham said. “When this is done successfully, all parties know that you are there to help and support them. When students and families believe that you have their best interest at heart and truly care for them, it makes things run more smoothly. Being the director of the afterschool program at my school, I find that it is very important to interact with parents and build a rapport with them. Therefore, I enjoy having the opportunity to interact with my students and their parents on a daily basis. This allows me to build trust and let them see that | truly care about their child. It also makes it easier to garner parental support when assistance is needed in my classroom. If the parent is already familiar with and trusts me, then the parent is usually more receptive and willing to assist when needed.”

Woods has worked in School District Five for nine years. She has also served the district by volunteering her time. She served as PTO President at Oak Pointe Elementary School and served on the School Improvement Council at Spring Hill High School.

“The most fulfilling aspect of my job as a teaching assistant is being able to advocate and contribute to the growth and development of students,” Woods said. “It’s incredibly rewarding to see students evolve not just academically but also on a personal level. My role allows me to support both the students and the teachers in a variety of ways. I take pride in being able to provide emotional support, contributing to the creation of a positive and inclusive classroom environment, and assisting teachers within their classroom and in scheduling meetings, coverages and field trips. This unique position enables me to build meaningful connections with students and staff which, in turn, helps them feel supported and understood. The greatest rewards in my job come from these deep, impactful interactions and the knowledge that I play a part in making a positive difference in students’ lives daily.”

Support Employee of the Year winners from each school include: Elizabeth Dewalt (Academy For Success), Bonita Harkness (Adult Education), Pam Hamilton (Ballentine Elementary), Sandy Ellisor (Center for Advanced Technical Studies), Cheryl Bowman (Chapin Elementary), Holley Barfield (Chapin High), Alicia Gregory (Chapin Intermediate), Katey Munniks (Chapin Middle), Shakia Williams (CrossRoads Intermediate), Barrett Isbell (District Office), Cissy Graham (Dutch Fork Elementary), Ian Greene (Dutch Fork High), Bryan Bush (Dutch Fork Middle), Rebecca Washington (FIVE), Fabian Ruff (H. E. Corley Elementary), John Dunlap (Harbison West Elementary), Tiffany McVey (Irmo Elementary), Cindy Zakhar (Irmo High), Nicole Drayton (Irmo Middle), Jessica Berry (Lake Murray Elementary), Duncan Burry (Leaphart Elementary), Tracy Tomlin (Nursery Road Elementary), Kristen Green (Oak Pointe Elementary), Heather Woods (Piney Woods Elementary), Penny Bradley (River Springs Elementary), Inge Ginsburg (Seven Oaks Elementary), Jennifer Gallagher (Spring Hill High), Manuel RioJas (Transportation).

Superintendent Akil E. Ross, Sr. said, “Congratulations to our Support Employee of the Year finalists and those who were selected by their peers to represent their school in our district! These individuals are an important part of School District Five’s mission to “love and grow our students.” Thank you for doing your part in helping our district and students thrive each and every day.”